Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review: The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser

Release date: January 3, 2017
Author info: Website | Facebook
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Amy Lennox doesn't know quite what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother's childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay.

Amy's grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House—but not in the usual way. It turns out that Amy is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy's new power is, it also brings danger—someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts—at whatever the cost.
Well, poo. I was really excited to read this one, because... I mean, could anyone reading this review not adore the idea of being able to jump into books? Of course the synopsis reminded me of Inkheart, but there have been a few different books recently about people going into books and characters coming out of them, so I figured something being published now would have its own unique spin on the idea. And there are definitely some unique things about The Book Jumper, but those couldn't save it for me.

I generally refuse to DNF books. Instead, I skim from whatever point I've lost interest. I think I was around a third of the way through this when I could barely motivate myself to read anymore. So, I skimmed. I'm glad I finished the story, because there were a couple of interesting surprises in store--who the bad guy is, much of the ending in general--but I'm also glad I didn't fully read all of that, either.

I have a few problems with The Book Jumper. First, I think it reads too young. Largely, if the romance had been removed, it would've been a perfectly decent middle grade novel. Amy is impetuous and immature, and she'd be a more likable protagonist if she were a few years younger. She only considers the repercussions of her actions once things start to go very wrong, and I couldn't help but wonder what kind of book lover would go tramping through their favorite stories without any regard toward how their actions would affect the books.

Second, some of the specifics of book jumping felt cheesy? I think, again, they'd not feel quite this way if this were a MG novel. The idea of the margins were interesting, and I kind of liked the visuals of the book's characters chilling off to the side of the story--but this almost cheapens the magic of books to me.

Third, the romance actually feels out of place anyway. I never felt any real chemistry between Amy and Will, and, as I said, you could get rid of it and the book would be stronger for it. It only works to give a little bit more emotional heft--which I didn't feel was all that strong to begin with.

Honestly, upon finishing The Book Jumper, I only felt ambivalence. There are a couple of good points, and I think there's some charm to the world and setup, but I couldn't heartily recommend much of anyone read it. It stinks, because that cover is fabulous. (And, to me, the best part of the book.)

About the author:

Mechthild Gläser is an award-winning author in her native Germany. The Book Jumper is her first book to be translated into English.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: Four Weddings and a Sixpence by Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, & Stefanie Sloan

Release date: December 27, 2016
Publisher: Avon
Pages: 416
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review through Edelweiss
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Beloved authors Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, and Stefanie Sloane deliver the stories of four friends from Madame Rochambeaux’s Gentle School for Girls who find an old sixpence in their bedchamber and decide that it will be the lucky coin for each of their weddings… 

“Something Old”
Julia Quinn’s prologue introduces her heroine Beatrice Heywood and the premise for Four Weddings and a Sixpence.

“Something New”
In Stefanie Sloane’s unforgettable story, an ever-vigilant guardian decrees that Anne Brabourne must marry by her twenty-first birthday. But love finds her in the most unexpected of ways.

“Something Borrowed”
Elizabeth Boyle tells the tale of Cordelia Padley, who has invented a betrothed to keep her family from pestering her to wed. Now she’ll need to borrow one to convince them she’s found her true love.

“Something Blue”
In Laura Lee Guhrke’s story, unlucky Lady Elinor Daventry has her sixpence stolen from her and must convince the rake who pilfered the coin to return it in time for her own wedding.

“... and a Sixpence in Her Shoe”
Julia Quinn finishes with the story of Beatrice Heywood, who never believed that the sixpence was anything but a tarnished old coin—until it led all of her friends to true love. But her faith in the coin is tested when it keeps sending her to the wrong man!
I loooove me some Julia Quinn! So, when I saw the concept for Four Weddings and a Sixpence, I was really excited. Anything with Julia Quinn's name on it is something I'm going to want to read. But I also loved the idea of trying out a few authors I'd never read without the commitment, AND I loved the friendship aspect. As is the nature of collections, I have a couple of stories I liked more than others, however--but I'm pleased to say I have a couple of new authors I'll check out with confidence!

"Something Old": This is a quick little intro to our characters and the basic setup. No one really stood out too heavily, but I think that was the point. There's plenty of time to get to know the characters in their particular stories. Yet, it was cute enough.

"Something New": Neither idea that a girl has to marry by a certain age or that the man helping her falls in love with her is new for historical romance, but Stefanie Sloane's story is, of course, still cute. This makes for some really fun banter--and I love banter.

"Something Borrowed": Elizabeth Boyle's story is, I think, my favorite of the group (and truly, it's hard for me to like something more than Julia Quinn!). I always love childhood friends falling in love and I'm always a fan of house parties in my historical romances, but I especially liked how everything comes about in this. I like a character who is dedicated to their family and willing to make sacrifices, and that's Kipp, but I adore a character who chases what they want most--and that's also Kipp!

"Something Blue": Laura Lee Guhrke's story is my least favorite of the group. While the concept is interesting--former flames have a falling out because he was investigating her father's alleged wrongdoing, essentially--there were parts of the ending that rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't want it to be the way it was, and it soured the happy ending for me.

"...And a Sixpence in Her Shoe": Everything I've ever read from Julia Quinn has been pitch-perfect delightful--and this story is no exception. While the other stories have a little more angst, there's something especially charming about such a straightforward happy ending. I think it works perfectly as the ending to the collection, and leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy.

I believe this is the first time I've read a collection like this, but it certainly won't be the last! I can't get enough Julia Quinn, so of course I loved her story, but I'm excited to have found a couple of new authors I can confidently pick up a book from and expect to enjoy.

Monday, January 2, 2017

December Recap

Hi! So I'm trying something new this month. For a long time I've posted Stacking the Shelves weekly, but I've found that those posts don't necessarily work for me any more. Part of my hopes for 2017 is that I'm going to get fewer books to keep--whether that be books I've bought or been given for review. I have so many books to read already, so I'm hoping to whittle down those piles, as well as actually keep up with the review books I do get.

And so, because I won't normally have new books to show off, I figure STS wasn't the way to go. I'm also finding it more of a chore to put together, so I'm hoping a once monthly recap will better suit me now! I'll be covering what books I got, what I posted, what books I read, my tentative TBR for the coming month, and anything else I might like to share.

What Books Did I Get?

For review:

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This works out so well, because I was mourning not having an ARC and I'm going to her signing in New Orleans in February--and then this showed up! Hoorah!

From trades:

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier
Zodiac by Romina Russell
Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Such great trades with Alyssa, CJ, and Liz! I've actually never had a truly bad trade on the hashtag, if you'd believe it (also, KNOCK ON WOOD), and always managed to get exactly the things I'm looking for--eventually. It may help that most of the stuff I actually collect isn't the stuff everyone else wants... :)

What Did I Read?

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (Started end of November, but I finished in December!)
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
The Rose Society by Marie Lu
Four Weddings and a Sixpence by Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, & Stefanie Sloane
Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt

Currently reading: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

What Did I Post?

Truthfully, not a lot. I'm working on it!

I've put together a January TBR, but we'll see how well I do with it. Like I said, I'm trying to catch up on some of the older stuff I've had for a while, as well as keep up with my review books--so hopefully what I'm doing will help. I don't expect to get to all of the books, but I'm determined to pick by books from this.

Most of January is review books, because apparently I have more than I anticipated--but as the year goes on that'll get better. I'm also trying to limit myself on romance books, so I only have three I'm allowed to read--and if I finish all of those, I can't read any more! There are a couple on here I am pumped about and I think choosing my first book of 2017 is going to be hard!

What Am I Doing?

December started off rough because I had a couple of big assignments to finish off my semester, but I got those done and then classes were over! That was quite the relief--and I'm excited to have finished my first semester of grad school with A's in both classes!

Then, of course, was Christmas, and with work being a little bonkers crazy, it's been quite a time. Problem is, with work, that now that the holidays are over, they want us to do a changeover (It was all due the day after Christmas! EEK!), a huge list of returns downloaded (I'm the kid's lead, and between kids and teen, I probably had 4000 books due out?) that I have to pull before inventory--which is mid-February, along with doing all of my projects and shelving. It's a lot, so we'll see how I cope with work, school, and blogging.

Otherwise, life is good! We're going to Disney World over Mardi Gras break, and I'm, of course, thrilled. I've got every day all planned and perfect, and I seriously can't wait.

However, part of why I'm trying not to get more books (buy them, in particular) is money. I live with my parents for free, but I also pay for school out of pocket. I have a scholarship that covers the out-of-state portion of my tuition, but that still doesn't make grad school cheap. With that and taking a trip to Disney, I've realized just how tight my money is going to be. Cutting out buying books, as well as anything else unnecessary, like new clothes and stuff, and going out to dinner, is the necessary step. I'd rather have an education and a vacation than more things I don't need. 

Whew! This had been kind of fun! I like not having any rules to follow on this, so I can imagine keeping this for a while. What do y'all think? Maybe I'll make myself a graphic for next month and make it official! :) Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Favorite YA Reads of 2016

The year is up! Can y'all believe it? 2017 is here! And while I wanted to get this up earlier, the last week of the year was kinda crazy, so I didn't get around to it. But, I can start this year off right!

This list is YA exclusively, so there are certainly some historical romances I might've added, but I wanted to focus.

So, in no particular order, here are my favorite YA books I read in 2016:

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson
Rebel Magisters by Shanna Swendson
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

I also wanted to include Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, but I couldn't find my copy to include in the picture!

I'm not in the least surprised that 80% of my list is essentially fantasy. Certainly if I broke down my reading into genres, overwhelmingly what I read the most of was fantasy and historical romance. What does surprise me is how well spread across publishers my favorites are! I've got Bloomsbury, Scholastic, Random House, Hachette, Penguin, and Macmillan all represented--as well as Shanna Swendson's self-published sequel. Sometimes I feel like I read too heavily from certain publishers, but I suppose I don't love books heavily in any one direction.

So now I want to know: what were your favorite books of 2016? If you have a post of some kind, link me to it! I'd love to see! 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Picture Books You Should Definitely Read--Even If You're Not a Kid

As a kid's lead at Barnes & Noble, I read a lot of picture books. I try to look at all the new stuff coming is as I shelve it, but I also pick books for our weekly storytime. And, of course, I want to read books that I enjoy, and ones that my kids will like hearing. I mean, I've always liked picture books, but working with them so much for work has heightened my appreciation a lot.

So, here is a selection of picture books that I think are worth checking out, no matter what your age:

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen - This is the third of Klassen's hat books, and they're all gems. The illustrations are simple but eye-catching, and you can get a little bit ridiculous reading aloud--and those are the best books

The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers - This is one I've been in love with since first seeing the cover. The art in this is just captivating, and I'd love to have several pages as prints. The story is a simple and lovely one.

There Is a Bird on Your Head! by Mo Willems - I've got serious love for the Elephant & Piggie books. They've all got sweet messages, but the text is very simple, so younger kids can enjoy it. The best part, though, is how fun they are to read aloud! There's yelling and weird sounds and funny voices--and it's the best. Obviously all of Mo Willems' books sell well, but I kind of think these are better than the Pigeon books? (Maybe that's just me...)

The Very Fluffy Kitty by A.N. Kang - I've been more than obsessed with this since I first saw it. I mean, look at that kitty! He's SO FLUFFY HE FLOATS. The art throughout is so precious, and it's just this happy little picture book that's absolutely charming.

Eloise by Kay Thompson - Honestly, I could never get through a picture book recommendation without mentioning Eloise. There is not a more fun picture book out there. Eloise is a character I always loved because she was messy and ridiculous. She lives the life all little girls would want, though, and she does it with joy. Plus, the illustrations are FAB.

John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith - This is not a new book, but it was new to me this year. While it appealed to me, because there's so much humor in the illustrations and text that I knew the kids wouldn't get, I was afraid my kids wouldn't get it, since they're not even preschoolers. BUT, this book got the loudest laughs out of them I've ever had. That makes it great in my book!

I love picking for storytime, because it lets me read a bunch of books, plus I get the chance to read them aloud, which is exactly how picture books should be read. And these are just a small few of my favorites! What are some of your favorite picture books?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review: Do You Want to Start a Scandal? by Tessa Dare

Release date: September 27, 2016
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Avon
Pages: 376
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review through Edelweiss
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.
•Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
•Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
•Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit … and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?
Unsurprisingly, Tessa Dare does it again. While this isn't my favorite of her books (That would be a tall order, really.), Do You Want to Start a Scandal? delivers Tessa Dare's signature witty and sweet romance. Her books are never not a complete joy to read--and it's clear why Tessa is the author that got me to start reading historical romance.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal? is actually a mashup of Tessa's two series Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After, bringing two former supporting characters into the spotlight. I've read all of the Castles Ever After books, so I knew Piers, but I've only read one Spindle Cove, and hadn't read about Charlotte yet.

Piers comes off, at first, as expected. He's controlled, and certainly cold, but as he and Charlotte come together, we see so much more of him--and Charlotte is the perfect foil. She's a firebrand, always off doing what she thinks must be done. Though, often what she's doing gets her into trouble.

I seriously loved watching them fall in love.

Of course, there is the mystery going on as well. I loved how it turned out--it's definitely a mystery, but it's really a (fun? Can I call it fun?) surprise. It's exactly what it should have been in a historical romance, and while the mystery plays an important part, this is first and foremost a romance.

So, if you like charming romances, you better be reading Tessa Dare's books. You'll close each book grinning like a fool--and who doesn't want that?

About the author:

Tessa Dare is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fourteen historical romance novels and five novellas. Her books have won numerous accolades, including Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® award (twice) and the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence. Booklist magazine named her one of the “new stars of historical romance,” and her books have been contracted for translation in more than a dozen languages.

Mixing wit, sensuality, and emotion, Tessa writes Regency-set romance novels that feel relatable to modern readers. With her bestselling “Spindle Cove” and “Castles Ever After” series, she has had great fun creating heroines who defy the conventions of their time—engaging in “unladylike” pursuits that range from paleontology to beer-making—and dreaming up the strong-willed, sexy heroes who find their hearts ensnared by them.

A librarian by training and a booklover at heart, Tessa makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and a trio of cosmic kitties.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Books I Waited Too Long to Read

I always do this, but I'm constantly coming across books I wanted to read (often quite desperately), even got pre-publication.... And then didn't get around to reading them. Yet, when I do read them, I love them and I'm upset that I didn't get to talk about them nearer to publication date. I've been catching up on a couple of series from authors I really like, and this keeps happening. I also have to dedicate some time to books I wish I could have been loving for longer, books by authors who quickly became favorites, even a genre I'm mad at myself for not starting to read sooner.

So, here are a few of my favorite books I got mad at myself for not reading ASAP:

The Books By Favorite Authors

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier - Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite authors, and it's her first YA series (Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret) that made me fall in love with her. Yet, it took me almost three years after publication to read it! Guess what--I loved it!

The Young Elites by Marie Lu - I just finished this and it's fabulous. I think I expected a different kind of book, but what I got was so much better. Plus the series is done--and I'm totally binging it!

The Diviners by Libba Bray - This is an intimidating book at 578 pages, but it's worth alllll that time. It's eerie, a little gruesome, a lot complicated, and totally awesome. This is one I might recommend waiting to read, in some ways, because there are only two out at this point, so you're stuck waiting a long time between books.

The Books I Was Dying For

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater - It's common in the YA blogging community to love this book, but I waited over a year from publication to read it! Lucky for me, The Dream Thieves was close at hand.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard - This is one I had long before it published, and I only just read it! Needless to say, Susan's world is fascinating, and one I can't wait to get back into.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir - I remember freaking out a little when I originally read the synopsis for this, and yet it's another I took over a year to read. Why? Hype certainly got to me, and this is one I think benefited from distance from the hype--I'd forgotten all that people said and went in with few expectations. And I loved it!

The Books I Was Late Hearing About

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier - You've seen Juliet Marillier on this list already (I told you she was a favorite!), but this is the book that made me fall in love with her. This was published in 1999, however, and I didn't read it till 2009. That's 10 years I could have had this love in my life, and I'd never heard of her! What a sad thought.

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron - I had some knowledge of this before I read it, but it wasn't till I read Rook and so adored it that I had to have more from Sharon Cameron. 

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson - This was another one that it was about a year after publication, but I only read this because I got a deal on the ebook ($1.99, I believe). Who knows how long it might have taken me to find Elisa, had it not been on sale? And now, of course, Rae is among my top YA authors (top 5, at least!)

The Genre I Didn't Know I'd Love

I have to close out this post with a bit dedicated to historical romance. Since it's only become my obsession in the last year, I've got a lot of catching up to do, and these are the books I'm upset I'd not gotten to read earlier (among a lot of others, for sure).

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn - This could count for all of the Bridgerton books, but this is the one that made me fall in love with them. This family! They're the best and I'm upset I'm done with the series.

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas - This is arguably my favorite historical romance I've read so far. Evie and Sebastian! My lord, I love them. I like the series, but I'm obsessed with this book in particular.

Falling Into Bed With a Duke by Lorraine Heath - This applies to Lorraine Heath in general. She has solidified herself as one of my favorite HR authors, and this is the first of her books I read. 

So that's it! There surely are plenty more books I could include, but these are books that have stood out to me over time, books that I've treasured since reading.

Now tell me: what are some books you got mad at yourself for not reading sooner?